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Portraiture and social understanding

Advances in Autism

Emerald Publishing

Interventions, Autism spectrum disorder, Social communication disorder

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      Abstract

      Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to discuss the possible explanations for deficits in social understanding evident in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A potential intervention technique is proposed that has not yet been examined in this population: viewing and drawing portraits. This portraiture-based intervention seeks to address some of the core issues set forth in each of the theories explaining impaired social functioning. Furthermore, this intervention is intended to specifically increase exposure to facial stimuli in a safe and controlled environment. Instructions about how to look closely at a social partner’s face and how to glean salient emotional information from the facial expression displayed can be developed through a focused exploration of drawing and viewing portraits. Current techniques such as eye tracking and fMRI are discussed in the context of this proposed intervention. Design/methodology/approach – This paper reviews existing research about ASD and seeks to present a new proposal for an intervention using portraiture. First the paper discusses existing interventions and reviews the current research about potential causes/areas of deficiency in individuals on the spectrum. This paper subsequently proposes a new type of intervention and discusses the reasons underpinning its potential success in the context of existing research. Findings – This was a proposed study so no empirical findings have been reported. However, observations of individuals on the spectrum engaging with artwork are discussed in this paper. Originality/value – No other research or study has been proposed in current literature relating specifically to the use of portraits (looking at and creating) to help individuals with ASD.

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      Most cited references 27

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      The social motivation theory of autism.

      The idea that social motivation deficits play a central role in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) has recently gained increased interest. This constitutes a shift in autism research, which has traditionally focused more intensely on cognitive impairments, such as theory-of-mind deficits or executive dysfunction, and has granted comparatively less attention to motivational factors. This review delineates the concept of social motivation and capitalizes on recent findings in several research areas to provide an integrated account of social motivation at the behavioral, biological and evolutionary levels. We conclude that ASD can be construed as an extreme case of diminished social motivation and, as such, provides a powerful model to understand humans' intrinsic drive to seek acceptance and avoid rejection. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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        Understanding emotions in others: mirror neuron dysfunction in children with autism spectrum disorders.

        To examine mirror neuron abnormalities in autism, high-functioning children with autism and matched controls underwent fMRI while imitating and observing emotional expressions. Although both groups performed the tasks equally well, children with autism showed no mirror neuron activity in the inferior frontal gyrus (pars opercularis). Notably, activity in this area was inversely related to symptom severity in the social domain, suggesting that a dysfunctional 'mirror neuron system' may underlie the social deficits observed in autism.
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          Time to give up on a single explanation for autism.

          We argue that there will be no single (genetic or cognitive) cause for the diverse symptoms defining autism. We present recent evidence of behavioral fractionation of social impairment, communication difficulties and rigid and repetitive behaviors. Twin data suggest largely nonoverlapping genes acting on each of these traits. At the cognitive level, too, attempts at a single explanation for the symptoms of autism have failed. Implications for research and treatment are discussed.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            Yale University, Connecticut, United States.
            Contributors
            Yale University, Connecticut, United States.
            Journal
            AIA
            10.1108/AIA
            Advances in Autism
            Emerald Publishing
            2056-3868
            30 July 2015
            30 July 2015
            : 1
            : 1
            : 30-40
            10.1108/AIA-05-2015-0004
            AIA-05-2015-0004.pdf
            © Emerald Group Publishing Limited
            Product
            Categories
            Articles
            Conceptual paper
            Health & social care
            Learning & intellectual disabilities
            Custom metadata
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